(FEDERALJACK) Essex social services obtained a High Court order against the woman that allowed her to be forcibly sedated and her child to be taken from her womb. The council said it was acting in the best interests of the woman, an Italian who was in Britain on a work trip, because she had suffered a mental breakdown.
TPP Exposed: WikiLeaks Publishes Secret Trade Text to Rewrite Copyright Laws, Limit Internet Freedom
(FEDERALJACK) WikiLeaks has published the secret text to part of the biggest U.S. trade deal in history, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). For the past several years, the United States and 12 Pacific Rim nations have been negotiating behind closed doors on the sweeping agreement. A 95-page draft of a TPP chapter released by WikiLeaks on Wednesday details agreements relating to patents, copyright, trademarks and industrial design — showing their wide-reaching implications for internet services, civil liberties, publishing rights,and medicine accessibility. Critics say the deal could rewrite U.S. laws on intellectual property rights, product safety and environmental regulations, while backers say it will help create jobs and boost the economy. President Obama and U.S. trade representative Michael Froman reportedly wish to finalize the TPP by the end of the year and are pushing Congress to expedite legislation that grants the president something called “fast-track authority.” However, this week some 151 House Democrats and 23 Republicans wrote letters to the administration saying they are unwilling to give the president free reign to “diplomatically legislate.”
(RT) Over 3,200 people in the United States are serving life sentences without parole for non-violent and often petty offenses – and taxpayers are paying billions to keep them locked up, according to a new report.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) report, titled ‘A Living Death,’ relays the stories of thousands of people impacted by the United States’ “late-twentieth-century obsession with mass incarceration and extreme, inhumane penalties” which leaves them likely to die behind bars even though they are far from being serious or violent offenders.
From possessing a bottle cap smeared with heroin residue to working as a middleman in a $10 drug sale, the ACLU says that punishment thought to be reserved for the most violent criminals in the US is also meted out to others – oftentimes for minor crimes.
Of the 3,278 people across the country serving life sentences without parole, the vast majority surveyed by the ACLU – 83.4 percent – received the punishment that was mandatory under sentencing laws, leaving the judge no other choice.
In January 1996, Timothy Jackson was caught stealing a jacket from a department store in New Orleans. A few months later, he was convicted of shoplifting and sent to prison. He is still incarcerated for stealing the $159 jacket.
“I know that for my crime I had to do some time, but a life sentence for a jacket value at $159…I have met people here whose crimes are a lot badder with way less time,” Jackson, now 53, told the ACLU.
Jackson’s sister, Loretta Lumar, told the Guardian that her brother’s life sentence is still difficult to digest.
“This doesn’t make sense to me,” she said. “I know people who have killed people, and they get a lesser sentence. That doesn’t make sense to me right there. You can take a life and get 15 or 16 years. He takes a jacket worth $159 and will stay in jail forever. He didn’t kill the jacket!”
Not long after Jackson received life in prison, a Louisiana appeals court found the sentence “excessive,” “inappropriate,” and “a prime example of an unjust result.” The court called him a “petty thief,” and threw out the sentence.
The next year, the state supreme court echoed those sentiments. “This sentence is constitutionally excessive in that it is grossly out of proportion to the seriousness of the offense,” wrote Judge Bernette Johnson. Yet the state’s stubborn four strikes law, which mandates life without parole, led her to reinstate the sentence.
There are many other stories in the report: someone condemned to life in prison for siphoning gasoline from a truck; another for helping steal tools from a tool shed; one for trying to cash a stolen check; a woman carrying a small amount of drugs for an abusive boyfriend; a man who stole a wallet from a hotel room.
Thanks to the drug war, most of the non-violent prisoners were sentenced in the federal system. Nine states are holding prisoners that are serving life sentences without parole for violent offenses. Louisiana has the highest amount, while Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and South Carolina also have high totals.
The US holds 2.3 million people in jail, the highest incarceration rate in the world. Drug offenses are an overriding factor in the American penal system.
Seventy-nine percent of the non-violent offenders serving life sentences without parole were convicted of non-violent drug crimes.
Overall, the ACLU calculates that $1.8 billion is spent to hold these prisoners for life.
About 65 percent of the prisoners identified in the report are African-American. In Louisiana, that proportion goes up to 91 percent.
“The racial disparity can result from disparate treatment at every stage of the criminal justice system, including stops and searches, points of arrest, prosecutions and plea negotiations, trials, and sentencing,”attorney Jennifer Turner, who authored the report and corresponded with more than 600 prisoners, told The Nation. “In Louisiana, it may also have to do with how prosecutors wield their enormous discretion in deciding whether to charge defendants as habitual offenders.”
The report shows that many of the non-violent offenders suffer from mental illness or drug dependency, or were mired in poverty.
Turner says the US is “virtually alone in its willingness to sentence non-violent offenders to die behind bars.” Life without parole for non-violent sentences is a violation of human rights, according to the European Court of Human Rights. The UK is one of only two countries in Europe that still uses the sentence, but has done so only in 49 cases involving murder.
In addition to life-without-parole sentences, many others serve 100-year or other stacked sentences that are, in effect, for life.
“The number of people serving death-in-prison sentences after being convicted of nonviolent crimes is not known but it is most certainly higher than the number of prisoners serving formal life-without-parole sentences for nonviolent crimes,” the report states.
All in all, the totals reveal that the US is sentencing 400 percent more people to life without parole than it was 20 years ago.
“The explosion in life without parole sentences is part of a larger, failed approach to criminal justice – an approach characterized by unnecessarily and unproductively extreme penalties,” the ACLU says. “The result? An aging prison population that costs more and more to lock up as their health deteriorates, strapped state budgets, and too many people locked up for too long.”
The report calls on state and federal sentencing laws that mandate or allow life without parole for non-violent crimes to be abolished. In addition, it calls on state governors and the Obama administration to commute those with outsized sentences.
In addition, the ACLU touts alternative solutions, including shorter prison terms and more drug treatment and mental health services.
“Life without parole sentences for nonviolent offenses defy common sense and are grotesquely out of proportion to the conduct they seek to punish,” the report concludes.
(REASON) Benton Mackenzie is 47 and set to die, suffering from terminal angiosarcoma cancer. Mackenzie uses medical marijuana to manage his pain, including a cannabis oil for his skin lesions some doctors say make his experience worth studying for other patients. Mackenzie’s effort to alleviate his pain and improve the quality of his life, however, has put him in the crosshairs of Iowa law enforcement. The Quad-City Times reports on how it started:
Search warrants filed in Scott County District Court describe how sheriff’s deputy Dan Furlong, who began investigating Mackenzie’s drug activity in 2010, was determined to bring down a local conspiracy.
Furlong wrote that Mackenzie solicited a high school friend and convicted felon, Stephen Bloomer, to help him grow marijuana.
Deputies pulled Bloomer over in May and cited him for driving while barred. He drove a car registered to Mackenzie, Furlong wrote. Deputies also spotted Bloomer walking in the neighborhood of Mackenzie’s parents’ home at 27120 183rd Ave.
That was enough for Furlong to search Mackenzie’s trash cans, where he found marijuana stalks Mackenzie had stripped clean to make his medicine. Furlong used that evidence to obtain a search warrant.
“I woke up to a bunch of people screaming ‘search warrant!’” Mackenzie said. “They had me on the ground. They had my wife on the ground. They were throwing stuff around in my son’s room. I heard them trashing the house.”
Prosecutors charged Mackenzie, his wife, his adult son, and his septuagenarian parents, with whom Mackenzie and his family live. He spent 42 days in jail until prison officials had him released amid worry about how much his medical treatment might cost them while he was in custody.
An Iowa lawmaker introduced a bill at the beginning of the year that would legalize some use of medical marijuana. It failed by March. Iowa’s senior senator, Chuck Grassely, meanwhile, says science backs marijuana prohibition. Obviously, he has no idea what he’s talking about.
(FEDERALJACK) A new measure, Measure B, passed in Los Angeles, Calif. this past Election Day. The measure states that actors in the pornography industry must wear condoms while filming sex scenes. Now a draft regulations under consideration in the California Senate would require porn stars wear a new type of protection: goggles. The goggles would prevent “ocular contact with male bodily fluids.”
(BREITBART) Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder to ask the Department of Justice to fund GPS tracking devices for autistic children–even though there are private companies that already offer this service.
14-year old Avonte Oquendo disappeared from his Long Island school a month ago. He has autism and does not speak. Unfortunately, he has not been found. Parents with autistic children are joining forces with Schumer, who issued a statement:
The sights and sounds of NYC and other busy places can be over-stimulating and distracting for children and teens with Autism, often leading to wandering as a way to escape. Voluntary tracking devices will help our teachers and parents in the event that the child runs away and, God forbid, goes missing. DOJ already funds these devices for individuals with Alzheimer’s and they should do the same for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Funding this program will help put school systems and parents of children and teens with Autism at ease knowing where their children are.
The Alzheimer service costs around $100, and the GPS tracking service is between $5 and $50 a month. Additionally, a service like this would require a federal database with private information. AT&T will now sell Amber Alert GPS for kids. The settings are determined by the parents and cost $199. They can get the device for free if they sign a three-year service agreement.
There are many links at the Autism Speaks website for safety products. One private company is Care Trak Systems. They are cost effective and as low as $3.29 per person but offer their service for free to seniors and families on fixed incomes.
(STAR-TELEGRAM) A group of 25 people angrily left the City Council chambers Tuesday night after voicing objections to this weekend’s regional disaster drill, saying it is a “militarization of the police.”
The North Central Texas Council of Governments is sponsoring the Urban Shield exercise Friday through Sunday to test the region’s ability to respond to terrorist events and other emergencies that could happen simultaneously throughout North Texas.
Police officers and firefighters will go through several training exercises including school shooting scenarios and mass transportation incidents. Arlington, Fort Worth, Dallas, Garland, Grand Prairie and other area cities will participate.
But the training exercises became controversial to some people after they learned that first responders in Boston had been through the training before the April 15 Boston Marathon bombing. Protesters said the tactics that first responders reportedly learned were excessive when it came to searching for the bombers.
“What happened in Boston won’t be allowed here by the population. That will be a danger to everyone. The way they went through people’s homes. The way they pointed weapons,” said Douglas Bell, 33, a disabled veteran who was among four residents who spoke in opposition Tuesday night. “Our people should not be trained to do that. It is unnecessary.”
Mayor Robert Cluck defended the joint exercise, saying the city often engages in preparedness exercises because public safety is complicated and everyone needs to know what their job is in an emergency.
“Clearly the world is more dangerous, but this exercise is not prompted by any one recent incident,” Cluck said earlier Tuesday.
Future events such as the 2014 NCAA Final Four at AT&T Stadium increase the city’s need to be prepared, Arlington Fire Chief Don Crowson said. His department will train on scenarios including collapsed buildings.
“The Urban Shield exercise is simply just that — it’s an exercise in preparedness, for man-made and natural emergencies,” Crowson said. “It keeps our people safe. We protect our community through these efforts.”
Exactly where most of the training will be conducted has not been disclosed. One exercise will be at Tarrant County College Northwest Campus in Fort Worth. The council of governments said it will disclose more details about the event today.
The training is being paid for with homeland security grants.
Urban Shield is a national first responder training program conducted by Cytel Group.
On Oct. 25, a group called the “Facing Urban Shield Action Network” protested in front of a Marriott Hotel in Oakland, Calif., where the city was hosting its annual Urban Shield disaster training exercise.
A member of the network told CBS San Francisco that the training was creating “militarization of police” and that “the war is coming to our streets.”
On Tuesday night, Jacob Cordoba, 26, of Arlington questioned the cities’ and council of governments’ right to run the terror drills.
“We saw an entire city locked down under martial law when two brothers killed three people,” Cordoba said, adding that officers in the Boston area were reportedly pointing rifles in residents’ faces and entering homes without warrants to search for the suspects.
Renee Barrett, 42, drove to the Arlington council meeting from her home in Euless. She was in the group that angrily left the chambers.
“My main concern is the militarization of the police. Our country is turning into a police state,” Barrett said.
Bell said he and others standing outside the chambers Tuesday night agreed to show up and protest when they find out where the exercises will be conducted.